Donald Trump lost big in Georgia on Tuesday as primary voters rejected three Republican candidates endorsed by Trump in favor of Republicans who refused to perpetuate the former president’s “Big Lie” about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Incumbents Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr won their primary elections decisively, with about 74 percent, 52 percent and 74 percent of the vote, respectively. All three candidates are rank-and-file Republicans — with the major distinguishing feature that none of them acquiesced to Trump’s demands to overturn President Joe Biden’s Georgia win in November 2020.
The three politicians had drawn particular ire from Trump, who blamed them for his loss — though Georgia’s 16 electoral votes still wouldn’t have been enough to hand him the election. Still, Trump sought to exercise his influence in the state and, like members of his party have done, to oust politicians who wouldn’t stand by him as he attempted to overthrow the government over his 2020 election loss.
Georgia Republican voters’ decision to send the incumbent politicians to the general election is a sign that Trump’s influence may be waning among his base. While his endorsees have been triumphing in some elections, the Georgia losses are a major blow to his grip on his followers — or at least a blow to his strategy of directing all of the party’s attention toward the 2020 election.
Raffensperger’s win over Rep. Jody Hice (R-Texas) was a particularly surprising result. Raffensperger was on the receiving end of Trump’s infamous call demanding that Georgia election officials find him more votes to win the election. The secretary of state rejected Trump’s demands, and an internal GOP poll found that he would lose handily because of it. Hice, on the other hand, was hand-picked by the former president to oust Raffensperger.
“The people of Georgia must replace the [Republicans In Name Only] and weak Republicans who made it all possible,” Trump said at a Georgia rally last year, speaking about Raffensperger. “In particular, your incompetent and strange — eh, there’s something wrong with this guy — your Secretary of State Raffensperger.”
Congressional Republicans’ and other GOP members’ continued obsession with so-called RINOs over the past year makes Trump’s loss even more of a blow; experts say that the loss shows that messaging about the 2020 election just isn’t energizing Republican voters anymore, and that attacks from Trump aren’t enough to sink a candidate.
To be clear, Raffensperger is far from a friend to voting rights. He has taken moves that would impede upon voting rights in the past, including forming a group to root out and criminalize absentee ballot-related voting fraud and allying with conservative voter suppression group True the Vote. Kemp, who signed Georgia Republicans’ sweeping voter suppression bill after the election, and Carr, who supported the law, aren’t civil rights heroes either.
Wins for Carr, who faced Trump’s pick John Gordon, and Kemp, who beat Trump-recruited David Perdue, are less surprising to election experts, but still a show of voters’ priorities. Even as they sought to make it easier for their party to openly bias or even overturn election results in the future, both politicians had rejected Trump’s coup attempts.
“[E]verybody and their dog down in Georgia knows exactly what this means: total, abject humiliation for the former president,” wrote Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt on Monday, before the primary. “If it happens like it seems it will, this one will leave a big, broad mark.”
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Stacey Abrams won her uncontested primary election for governor. Abrams, a longtime voting rights advocate, stands in sharp contrast to the Republican candidates. Though she lost to Kemp in her 2018 gubernatorial campaign, the run launched her to Democratic fame, granting her national name recognition — and, perhaps, a better chance at breaking Republicans’ nearly decade-long grip on the governor’s office.